Soft and chewy with pretty, crinkly tops, these lemon cookies are sweet with just a touch of tartness and just the right touch of lemon flavor. Recipe includes a how-to video!
When I was pregnant with Luke last summer, just the smell of lemon was enough to make me sick. Lemon cookies were out of the question.
It didn’t start that way, though. I had heard that lemon was a smell that actually helped ease nausea in pregnant women, so I worked on a string of lemon recipes. I developed recipes for lemonade, lemon brownies, lemon cupcakes, and lemon curd one after the other. And by the time I started filming these recipes, I couldn’t stomach the scent of lemon (but it was too late and we had to finish filming!). I made it through the videos (poor Zach had to listen to me whine and complain the whole time) and stayed as far away from lemon as I could for months even after Luke was born.
My appetite for it is finally coming back (and I recently shared my lemon poppy seed muffins) and I thought one of my oldest cookie recipes on the blog (I first published a recipe for lemon cookies back in 2016!) needed a refresh and a facelift.
What You Need:
This is just an overview of the ingredients chosen and the rationale for those of you who are interested in the chemistry and thought process behind my lemon cookies. Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full list of ingredients, measurements, method, and a video.
- Flour. All-purpose, or “plain” flour should be used here. I do not have any suggestions for substituting self-rising flour, unfortunately.
- Sugar. I use all granulated sugar, I found that brown sugar bullied the lemon flavor too much for my liking.
- Butter. I use unsalted butter and then add salt. Make sure your butter is softened before beginning so that it will cream nicely with the sugar.
- Lemon zest. You’ll need 2 ½ Tablespoons and we’ll cream the zest with the butter and sugar to release the oils and give our lemon cookies a stronger lemon flavor. I’ve found I need two lemons to get enough zest. One of the lemons tried to roll out of my ingredient photo above, but it’s there in the corner!
- Eggs. We’re using one egg and one egg yolk. The extra yolk helps make for a chewier, softer, and richer cookie.
- Extracts. Lemon extract allows for a stronger lemon flavor; I unfortunately found that the lemon zest alone wasn’t sufficient to flavor the cookies. I also like to use just a small splash of vanilla extract, though this is optional.
- Cornstarch helps keep the cookies soft and chewy and keeps them from spreading too much on the baking sheet.
- Baking soda and cream of tartar give the cookies their crinkly tops, just the right amount of spread, and deepens the tangy lemon flavor.
- Powdered sugar. I roll the cookie dough through this before baking.
I do recommend using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer to make this dough. Creaming the butter, sugar, and lemon zest could be done by hand, but it’s quite the arm workout and is a task to get all of the ingredients as well-combined as they need to be.
Making in Advance
Lemon cookie dough can be made up to 5 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Roll cookies in powdered sugar just before baking (not before refrigerating).
A Few Tips:
- Measure your flour properly. This is one of the most important tips that I can give anyone baking any recipe that uses flour, not just lemon cookies. If the flour is not measured properly the cookie dough is liable to become dry and crumbly. Which means dry cookies.
- Butter should softened, but not so soft that it is melt-y or greasy. If it’s too soft, it can make your cookie dough too sticky and your cookies more likely to spread too much. This can usually be saved if you chill the dough, but one thing I love about this recipe is that there’s no chilling required.
- Never place cookie dough on a hot cookie sheet. Always allow baking sheets to cool completely before adding the dough.
- Bake one cookie sheet at a time in the center rack of your oven. All of my recipes (and most recipes, really) should be baked in the center of the oven unless otherwise indicated.
- Cookies should be soft and almost seem under-baked when they come out of the oven. They’ll finish baking while they cool on the cookie sheet. This keeps them nice and soft, even once they’ve cooled.
- For an extra pop of lemon flavor, you can skip the powdered sugar and instead drizzle these cookies with the same glaze that I use on my lemon brownies after they finish baking.
I also recommend watching my video on how to make lemon cookies in the recipe card!
More Recipes You Might Enjoy:
Enjoy! Be sure to check out the how-to video in the post!
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (226g)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar (300g)
- 2 ½ Tablespoons lemon zest¹
- 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk room temperature preferred
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose plain flour (375g)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Powdered sugar for rolling cookies about ½ cup or (70g)
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl using an electric mixer (or use a stand mixer!), combine butter, sugar, and lemon zest. Beat until creamy and well-combined.
- Stir in egg and egg yolk, lemon extract, and vanilla extract until completely combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
- Gradually (with mixer on low-speed), add flour mixture to butter mixture until completely combined. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are completely incorporated.
- Scoop cookie dough by level 1 ½ Tablespoon-sized scoop and roll between your palms until you have a smooth ball. Roll ball through powdered sugar and place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing cookies at least 2” apart.
- Bake on 350F for 9-11 minutes and allow to cool completely on baking sheet. Enjoy!
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
I originally published a lemon cookie recipe back in July of 2016. This is an improved version and the photos, text and recipe have been updated and a video has been added.
My 3rd time only twice did I get cookies who’ve I really do like but what call do to intensify the lemon flavor? I want them way more lemony😂
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi John! You can always increase the lemon extract 😊
Coming back to say I made these last night. 5 stars!!! Love the lemon smell and taste of these cookies. These cookies are also super fluffy and soft but edges are just slightly crunchy. YUM!
I used two tablespoons of dough in each cookie and baked at 350 for 11-12 mins! Sam’s the best!
I’m so glad you enjoyed them so much, Megan! 🙂
Baking these this week! Can I use lemon juice instead of extract?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Megan! You really need the extract here. Lemon juice isn’t nearly strong enough and the zest alone isn’t strong enough either. Hope that helps!
Copy that!! Went out and bought lemon extract because I had a feeling! 🤣 thanks so much!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Yay! You’ll love them 🥰
I made these cookies today and they were absolutely perfect! I have been looking for a lemon sugar cookie and have made a few slightly different versions, but this one had just the right level of lemony flavor and the texture was excellent – I am thinking the cream of tartar is helping achieve the texture. I do have one question or observation. My earlier batches of cookies had perfect crackly tops. My last 2 pans of cookies still rose well, but had less of the crackly top. Any idea what is going on or how to adjust at the end to keep the crackly top? There was still “some” crackly top going on, but the tops were much smoother for sure. Does the cream of tartar lose its “umph” as the dough sits? Wondering if you have seen this before,
Bottom line – this is a great recipe. Thank you for sharing!
Hi Bridget! I’m so glad you enjoyed the cookies! The only thing I could think here is that the dough sat a long time before baking.
Can you substitute lemon oil for lemon zest? I have been trying to find out much lemon oil to use for this recipe.
I haven’t tried it so it’s difficult to say how it would work. If you do try it I would love to know how it turns out. 🙂
Hi sam! Is it possible to leave out rolling the dough through powdered sugar?
That will be just fine. 🙂
Hi Sam – I found the lemon cookies just a tad too sweet for my liking. Could I try reducing the amount of sugar next time without making any other adjustments to the recipe? Love your recipes!
Hi Christine! I haven’t tried reducing the sugars, but you could probably reduce them a bit without completely ruining the cookie
How do you make it flat like that?
The first time I tried, it was rock-like.
I can’t flatten it out.
O no! I’m so sorry this happened. These should flatten without any intervention from you. If they don’t, the most likely culprit is too much flour in the dough. 🙁
Awesome! I’m 10 and just baked the cookies! Wonderful taste!
Can I use tapioca starch or arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch? I have a corn allergy. If I just leave out the cornstarch will it ruin the recipe?
Hi Courtnie! You can just use a little extra flour here. The cornstarch helps make the cookies a little bit softer. 🙂
How can I use this recipe in a cookie press (or I call it a cookie gun)? Thank you in advance!
Hi Beth! The dough isn’t going to keep it’s shape when baking if using a cookie press.